How To Select A Contractor
If you take nothing else from East End Great Renovations, you can take this very important and useful guide as an aid in the preparation of selecting a contractor.
Good luck and best wishes, Bobbie & Bob Miller
How To Select A Contractor
Selecting your remodeling contractor is the single most important decision you will make regarding the success of any project you may be considering. You can avoid many of the common problems that arise between remodeling contractors and homeowners if you do some homework before signing a contract…saving yourself time, ill-spent money, and the accompanying long-term headaches. Whether you are adding a family room, renovating a kitchen, or any home remodeling project, East End Great Renovations Inc. recommends that you use the following checklist to test your potential contractors.
Is the contractor well established?
How long has he or she been in business?
Communication is vital.
Do you feel at ease asking your prospective contractor for details? It is crucial that you do not hire anyone you feel hesitant to question. It is equally crucial that your contractor is comfortable asking questions of you. Question and answer sessions should serve to figure out more than just size, shape, and price. Such sessions should also clarify less tangible aspects of your project, including why you’re undertaking the project and what impact you want it to have on your lifestyle. These aspects may very well transform what could simply be an addition to your home into what could be a real improvement to your home.
Has your contractor quoted an exact price for your complete project?
Many contractors will quote a flat, generic price per square foot for your project without fully reviewing the unique characteristics of your home or building site. If the contractor does not attend to detail when quoting a price, then what level of detail might you expect once construction does start? And who do you anticipate will absorb the cost of unexpected difficulties when they arise?
Make sure that all bids are for the same specifications.
Beware the contractor who promises to “build it the same way XYZ Builders does, but for a much lower price.” Detailed drawings and written construction specifications are the best way to ensure consistency between bids. For the same design, a higher price may reflect different (and superior) materials, workmanship, business practices, and project integrity.
Get it in writing.
Contracts and design capabilities can fall within a full spectrum of presentations. Prepare yourself for everything from scribbles on a business card, to “trust me” verbal agreements based on a handshake. Although the handshake part is an important start of your relationship with a contractor, do not consider it as a final basis for the details of your project. Always detail your agreement in writing.
Eliminate guesswork…and surprises.
Come to a full understanding. Written contracts can range from your signing a simple estimate to more thoroughly documented agreements. Details that can, if overlooked, turn into particular sources of dissatisfaction include:
General Building Specifications. Contractors who perform new construction provide specifications that detail the types of lumber and materials they will provide in every aspect of their projects. Your remodeling and home improvement contractors should do the same. Remember, if it is not in writing, it is subject to change without your knowing, or having legal recourse to settle disputes.
Utilities. Will the contractor locate and avoid interfering with underground utilities such as telephone, gas, cable TV, and natural gas lines? Similarly, does the contractor locate and account for obstructions that could have an effect on the cost and process of your project, such as vents, meters, and gutter downspouts?
Lumber Drop. Often overlooked, your ability to agree upon a location for the lumber truck to drop materials can avoid much damage to your lawn or garden, as well as surprise blockage in your driveway.
Clean Up. Will you or the contractor remove and dispose of excess lumber, cuttings, dropped hardware, and litter? Clean up costs money, time, and effort.
Is your builder applying for and providing a building permit?
Although not all home improvements require a permit, the homeowner is commonly responsible for getting the permit for projects that do require one. Some contractors, however, offer to provide this service. Either way, a building permit protects you by ensuring that the work will be completed in compliance with local and state building codes. A project completed without a permit, when required, could lead to insurance or property transfer problems.
Is the contractor respectful of you and your home?
As part of the agreement, does your potential contractor ask you for use of your electrical and bathroom facilities once construction does begin? Beyond attention to detail, this courtesy also gauges the level of respect the contractor has for you and your home.
Do not pay more than 1/2 of the contract value as a deposit, until the start of construction.
It is quite reasonable for a contractor to ask for and receive a down payment upon the sale, as well as schedule future progress payments. Yet, many of the remodeling horror stories involve homeowners who paid a large deposit and got little or none of the work performed. Because most projects require the outlay of very little cash until the actual start, a demand for a larger deposit may be an indication that the contractor has been judged a poor credit risk.
Do not put your home at risk.
It is a very important investment for you. For instance, one important consideration involves how your deck or other outdoor home improvement project is attached to your home. Improper protection against water, or the wrong method of attachment to the house, can result in damage to your home’s framing. Improper attachment may also jeopardize the integrity and strength of your deck or project. Local codes will provide minimum standards that you should expect. Remember, include these written specifications in your contract.
RRP (Renovation, Repair and Painting Program Lead Safe Certified Contractors
Lead paint exposure can occur during home renovation. Protect your family by knowing whether your contractor is EPA lead-certified and what to ask before hiring. The RRP requires any contractor who disturbs lead paint to become EPA-certified and follow strict protocol to minimize and contain lead dust during improvement projects on homes built before 1978. The most important thing owners of pre-1978 homes can do is hire certified contractors on jobs that disturb lead paint, and verify that the contractor follows the law.
Verify that the contractor has general liability and worker’s compensation insurance.
Without such coverage, you could be held liable for property damage or injuries that occur on your property. Furthermore, simply seeing a certificate of insurance is not enough. Some insurance companies enclose a certificate–complete with policy number and levels of liability coverage–in the same envelope as they include their premium notice. A truly dishonest contractor can throw the premium notice away without paying for coverage, yet can hang onto the certificate, bring it to your home, and flaunt it for you. ALWAYS write down the name of the insurance broker and the policy number. This way you can call and verify that your contractor is covered against liabilities. Remember, if the contractor is not insured and is hurt on the job, the contractor–or even the government-can sue you.
Do not just ask your contractor for references from other homeowners.
You should break references into two further categories:
A contractor’s inability to stay in business is often not a result of poor workmanship.Their failure as a business (and consequent inability to do warranty repairs, let alone finish your project) is more often a result of poor business practices. Reasonable business people will take no offense when you ask for business references (local lumber yards, code officials, local wholesalers, etc.) and will proudly provide these references to you upon request. Struggling, unprofessional contractors will not.
Do not just ask for a generic list of satisfied customers. Expand your list to include customers from two or more years ago, owners of recently completed projects, and customers whose projects are currently under construction. This will give you a historical performance review of your contractor. Furthermore, if your project is tall, short, crooked, or purple with pink polka dots, then ask for and speak with references with projects that are tall, short, crooked, or purple with pink polka dots.
The Consumers Resource Handbook offers free general information on making purchases & resolving complaints. Write to: Handbook, Consumer Info Center, Pueblo, CO 81009.
Contact your local Home Builder’s Association. You can find their phone number in the white pages.
Contact your local Better Business Bureau. Be sure to ask for your copy of “TIPS ON…HOME IMPROVEMENTS;” it’s part of the BBB Consumer Information series.